Ueno is an interesting area, because of its diversity in terms of history, culture and geography.
Kaneiji Temple was built to protect the city from evil
Ueno is best known as the home of Ueno Park. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, which used to be one of the city’s largest and wealthiest temples. It was the main family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period. Tokugawa Iemitsu, the 3rd Shogun, built Kaneiji Temple to protect Edo Castle from evil (the northeast of the capital was believed to be an ominous direction according to feung shui) .
However, during the Boshin Civil War, which followed the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Kaneiji suffered nearly complete destruction in a battle between the forces of the new Meiji government and loyalists of the Tokugawa Shogunate. After the battle, the temple grounds were converted into Japan’s first Western style park.
Ueno is home to some of Tokyo’s finest cultural site
Ueno Park is home to Tokyo’s finest museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art and the National Museum of Nature and Science. It also has a major concert hall and a popular zoo, home to giant panda. In late March, hundreds of cherry trees burst into full bloom.
In 2016, the National Museum of Western Art was designed by Le Corbusier, whose work was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Ueno is the traditional terminus for trains from northern Japan
Ueno is a part of the Shitamachi (literally “low city”) district of Tokyo, a working class area rather than where the aristocrats and rich merchants lived.
It is also the traditional terminus for long-distance trains from northern Japan, although with the extension of the Shinkansen lines to Tokyo Station this role has diminished in recent years.
Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko) is a maze of bustling streets
Just south of the station is the Ameya Yokocho, a street market district selling items ranging from seafood and sweets to daily household goods. The name Ameyoko is derived from two things: first, a candy shop alley, second, “Ame” stands for America, because a lot of American products used to be available there in the years following WWII when it was the site of a black market.